20 Products You Need to Buy the Day You Turn 30
For about two years leading up to Dec. 21, 2012, I "believed" the world was going to end. OK, so I didn't really think that life as we know it would cease to exist based on the Mayan prediction, but I did like to use it as a YOLO tactic with my best friend. Every time one of us felt like flaking on a brunch date, gym class, or night out, we would remind each other that the apocalypse was near! And quickly, we would man up and stay out dancing for an extra hour or push ourselves a little harder in Spin class. We tried to make every moment count. "The world is ending" became synonymous with "live it up!"
And then Dec. 21, 2012, came and went. And I was totally fine.
That left me with a new doomsday to dread: turning the big 3-0. I was still 28 on Dec. 21, 2012, and just about two years later on Dec. 10, I would enter my third decade. So said BFF and I started prematurely referring to ourselves as 30-year-olds, treating our upcoming birthdays as the be-all and end-all for feeling young and having fun. We wanted to be emotionally prepared for our bodies to change. And while I did experience some signs of aging — a slowed metabolism and more noticeable under-eye circles — my birthday came and went much like the Mayan apocalypse. Nothing happened.
Now as the rest of my gal pals are crossing over to their 30s, I am receiving a flood of anxious texts and emails. "What eye cream should I use?" "Should I start Botox?" "My husband noticed a line on my forehead!" Calmly and gently, I have been confirming that it's a bit early for cosmetic dermatology (something I was told by two top NYC derms) and recommending products. But since I know that the ladies in my crew aren't the only ones panicking, I decided to make a comprehensive list of every hair, makeup, and — most importantly — skin care product you need to use in your early 30s. All of these essentials are handpicked, tried, tested, and used on the regular by yours truly. If you just turned 30, embrace it, own it, and beautify for it. I promise: the end is nowhere near.
This is (just) 30.
Vitamin C Serum
Why: Whether you accidentally got burned on your BFF's bachelorette in Puerto Rico or from your high-school preprom tanning session, you need to reverse UV damage and sun spots with a brightening vitamin C-infused serum. The rock-star ingredient is rich in antioxidants to detox skin.
Try: Ever since I got my first vitamin C facial at NYC spa Mario Badescu, I've been hooked on the take-home treatment: Vitamin C Serum ($45). It's potent with a 7.5-percent ascorbic acid formula, so make sure to only use it every other night, since it's too strong for everyday use and daytime light exposure can tamper with the results.
Why: Let's say it together (slowly): it's too early for Botox. OK, big sigh out. But that doesn't mean it's too early for a pre-Botox serum. This brand-new category is a wonder-working moisturizer product that mimics Botox to keep wrinkles at bay.
Try: Dr. Brandt Skincare Needles No More ($89) is life-changing. This cooling serum has me saying, "I do believe in fairies!" — or rather, "I do believe a topical cream can change my face." Though it just launched in February, I've already seen results in my forehead, where my fine lines are seeming to blur away. The numbing cream relaxes the skin where we would normally crinkle and wrinkle, making it combative for crow's-feet, between the brows, and the forehead. It's kind of freaky, but I'm convinced.
Why: You know when Sam Jones got that crazy peel on Sex and the City and it was terrifying? Well, this is not that. Today's at-home peels are the most effective — and addictive! — way to thoroughly exfoliate. Enzymes in the formula break down dead skin cells, leaving you with a renewed layer of epidermis — no scrubbing or buffing required. I've noticed my skin tone significantly improve from doing it about twice a week. Plus, I need less foundation when my skin is fresher and clearer.
Try: If your skin is sensitive or new to peels, then you'll love Natura Bisse's Tolerance Enzyme Peel ($150). It's a bit gentler than the hardcore version (which you can eventually graduate to — I did!). Try it at night and follow with your favorite serum, which will really sink into your bare skin if you use it postpeel. And make sure you use SPF in the a.m. to avoid photosensitivity.
Why: Hopefully by 30, you've moved up in your career and are managing someone — even if it's an intern. That means you need to look more polished from 9-to-5. One swipe of a sophisticated lipstick will brighten your face and command more respect.
Try: The Shu Uemura Vision of Beauty Rouge Unlimited Lipstick in Maroon ($30) has been my go-to since it launched last Fall (which means you need to buy it ASAP since it's limited edition). The creamy cranberry stain gives me just enough color to make my pout stand out, but it's less look-at-me than a Cabaret red.
Why: Around 30, my dark under-eye circles started puffing into bags (I blame years of lack of sleep). The best remedy I've found is to deflate them with a serum applied throughout the day (I toss it in my purse and just pull it out on the go). Oils in creams can sometimes build up and cause puffiness, so a gel serum is a better option.
Try: La Mer's The Illuminating Eye Gel ($145) feels soothing and cooling to the touch, and it includes the brand's signature Miracle Broth — a patent antiaging potion.
Healing Hair Mask
Why: Whether you've been coloring your hair for years or realizing your mane feels a bit drier, you need to have a solid moisture mask on hand. As we age, our skin and scalp produce less oil, which results in coarser strands. It's an easy shower remedy by swapping your daily conditioner for a once-a-week heavier version.
Try: When I tell you the ingredients in Oribe's Gold Lust Transformative Masque ($62), you'll understand why it smells so amazing. White tea leaf extract softens strands, jasmine nourishes, shea butter improves elasticity, and baobab oil (from the African baobab "Tree of Life") offers revitalizing vitamins A, D, E, and F. Basically, it packs in everything that's good for you to deliver lustrous locks.
Why: After a celebrity manicurist warned me that my nails would age if I didn't hydrate them properly, I got serious about my at-home pedicure care. The easy fix is to apply cuticle oil nightly, letting it absorb and work its magic while you sleep. The pro tip is to rub the brush between your fingers to distribute the formula evenly, then massage it into your nail beds to avoid a messy oil spill.
Try: Not only does Deborah Lippmann's lavender cuticle oil ($20) look lovely displayed on your nightstand, but it also contains all the best oils: jojoba, coconut, and mineral. Plus, you can use it on dry elbows, feet, and anywhere with chapped skin.
Why: Before you slap on any old body cream, go for the season's newest iteration: the body serum. The skin on the body changes over time, and a body serum (which is lighter and sinks in deeper) will give you added moisture benefits to keep everything looking tight on the beach. Feel free to layer a heavier lotion over it (like you would for your face) for double the hydrating benefits.
Try: I am a recovering tan-aholic, so L'Occitane Almond Velvet Body Serum ($52) is the perfect remedy for my freckled bod. It has vitamin C and almond native cells to reduce the appearance of those dreaded dark spots. And the floral-almond scent is an easy way to skip perfume on busy mornings.
Why: Tough love, ladies: if you think you can get away with tanning in your 30s, you're fooling yourself. As skin rejuvenation slows down, it's harder for us to recover after a sunburn, so dehydrated skin stays wrinkled and sunspots darken. Just skip all of that headache by wearing a daily SPF. Your 40-year-old self will thank you!
Try: Sometimes it gets confusing whether to apply sunscreen before or after foundation. Eve Lom made this all easy by launching the Flawless Radiance Primer + SPF 30 ($55). This sheer layer is worn underneath foundation, so you'll be covered on every level. And it feels deliciously silky against bare skin!
Why: You're not in college anymore, and it's not cute to have ratty hair. Even if you don't have time to do your hair in the morning — after all, you need to run from SoulCycle to a 9 a.m. meeting — you can still brush it and pull it back into a bun. But you can't get that really sleek, chic look without the right hair tool. A grown-up brush is going to help you improve your at-home blowouts, distribute oil from your scalp to your ends, and, of course, create a polished topknot.
Try: Is the famed Mason Pearson brush ($205) worth it? Yes, yes it is. A friend of mine who just turned 30 received one as a birthday present and could not stop gushing about how shiny and maintained her coif has been since she added it into her regime. The English brand has been making brushes since 1885, and by now it has perfected the premium-grade boar bristle brush (note: it also offers a luxe scalp massage).
Why: A typical 20-something can show up at the office with heavily rimmed eyes, and it looks edgy. But in your 30s, it just seems like you partied too hard on a "school night" and forgot to wash your face. Instead of playing up your baby blues with eyeliner, define your eyes by shaping your brows. Filling in your arches actually lifts your entire face (again, it's too early for a real face lift).
Try: There's a reason the Tom Ford Brow Sculptor ($44) is a cult product. Use the spoolie brush to comb hair up and over, then flip it, and with light, upward strokes, fill in any sparse spots with the calligraphy tip. Be careful to only add more definition to the top of your arches, since you want to create the illusion of a lifted brow. Fun fact: twist the cap of the Tom Ford tool counterclockwise to reveal a sharpener.
Why: Once you enter your 30s, some fine lines may start showing, but I've truly found that the right hydrating products can make them disappear. Overnight moisture masks are great for 30-somethings, since you can really replenish skin while you're sleeping. And unlike regular masks, you can put it on and pass out — no wiping off required!
Try: Models love French skin care brand Avène, because it's simple, effective, and hypoallergenic (read: it won't upset rosacea and sensitive skin). The drugstore price point doesn't hurt either! After all, in your 30s you need to start saving. The Avène Soothing Moisture Mask ($26) is one of my favorites from the brand — it feels soothing and is small enough to throw in your bag to use before a long flight.
Why: Thanks to the Kardashians, contouring is a buzz word in beauty right now. I encourage you to celebrate your bone structure at 30 now that those chubby college cheeks are long gone! Highlight what you've got.
Try: There are a ton of contouring kits and sticks on the market, but Charlotte Tilbury's Beach Sticks ($45) are by far my favorite. Don't let the luxe rose gold packaging fool you — they're actually quite lightweight, so you can toss a few in your bag without it feeling heavy. But the formula and universally flattering colors are what elevate them to be makeup stars: they contain a skin-plumping ingredient called Ceramidone, creamy polymers to moisturize, and tiny light-reflecting pigments to make you glow. I add a bronze stripe (Formentera) just below my cheekbone and a pink (Las Salinas) at the apples and blend back to shade the area. The best part is that they also make superb lip stains — especially the orange-red hue (Es Vedra) — and they kind of smell like marshmallows (in a good way!).
Why: After years of coffee and red wine drinking, your teeth may be stained. Get back your bright-white smile by investing in an electric toothbrush. Add on the fact that it significantly helps reduce your chance of getting cavities and gum disease.
Try: The Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush ($190) is the Louis Vuitton of toothbrushes. It's worth every pretty penny — trust me. It leaves your mouth postdentist fresh and is sold with a display-worthy chargeable glass cup as well as a chargeable case for travel. And it comes in pink!
Hair Texture Gel
Why: At 30, it's time to be comfortable in your own skin — or rather, hair. Make this the decade you embrace your natural curls and air-drying.
Try: I have naturally curly-wavy hair and found that light gels, like Kérastase Curl Fever ($29), give it the best texture. I even use this before I blow-dry, and it's never sticky or crunchy. The lightweight formula gives me just enough grit for natural or hot-tools-styled coils.
Fancy Travel-Size Products
Why: Whether you're headed off to a destination wedding, work trip, or romantic weekend away with your partner, you need to continue to do the same disciplined beauty regime on the road. Any old moisturizer won't do — especially since traveling can be so dehydrating. It's time to swag yourself out with upscale skin care minis.
Try: One of my favorite Asian-inspired skin care brands, Tatcha, just launched travel-size options for almost every product in the line. You can snap up a set like the Tatcha Travel Kit ($125) or mix and match. I'm partial to the Classic Rice Enzyme Powder ($15) — it's a powder so you don't have to worry about spills, and when you add water, it turns into a luxurious exfoliating foam.
Why: When you were in your teens and 20s, it was totally acceptable — and even celebrated! — to take off your makeup with drugstore wipes, devour a slice of pizza, and pass out still a little tipsy. Nowadays, you need to stop cold at two cocktails (because a slice of pizza isn't going to hold off your hangover) and do a more thorough face-washing routine. Oil cleansers are the lazy-girl choice for 30-somethings. They take everything — even the tackiest mascara — off in one solid wash and leave your skin a bit dewy if you're too exhausted for moisturizer.
Try: Shu Uemura Ultime8 Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil ($90) is my go-to. It contains eight botanical oils sought out from Chinese medicines and leaves me glowing like I just finished cheerleading at the high-school pep rally. Seriously.
Shampoo and Conditioner That Really Clean Your Hair
Why: Get back the shiny strands of your Summer camp days by shelling out for high-end shampoo and conditioner. I noticed a significant change in my hair when I started using better quality cleansers — my natural honey highlights emerged, split ends were mended, and the texture softened.
Try: Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Shampoo ($24) and Conditioner ($24) are endorsed by hair queen Jennifer Aniston — and for good reason. The sulfate-free duo gets your mane salon-style clean while improving volume, hair strength, and smoothness over time.
Hair Heat Protectant
Why: Years of flat-ironing, blow-drying, and curling your hair may have left you with serious split ends and dryness. Remedy that and prevent it from happening again by using a pre-hot-tools protectant serum.
Try: I love Drybar's latest 100 Proof Treatment Oil ($35) because it actually feels nourishing when I add it to the end of my mane. It's like my hair is thirsty and drinking the rejuvenating oil in. I use it after the shower and anytime I need to tame flyaways.
Heavy-Duty Lip Balm
Why: Before you start injecting your lips with fillers, try plumping them with a hardworking balm. Plus, with the number of weddings you'll be attending during high season, you'll need to be lipstick ready at all times. A nourishing product will make sure the color slides across your pucker with ease.
Try: I go through so many jars of Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Intensive Lip Repair Balm ($33) that I now use the empty containers as pill boxes. The creamy hypoallergenic formula is addictive thanks to essential fatty acids, shea butter, honey extract, and arnica oil. The minty eucalyptus scent makes it kissing-approved. And in a pinch, I also use it on my cuticles, brows, or as a subtle cheek highlighter.